In My Little Monster, a small nihilistic beast is rejected by his love, and sets out to destroy the world. That’s the kind of one-man effort you can’t help but respect. The game My Little Monster is also an imperfect one-man effort. It offers an entertaining story, but isn’t much fun to play.
You play as a green dinosaur-like monster as he fights his way through 31 enemies. To be more accurate, you watch your little monster as he fights, tapping the screen every few seconds to collect loot drops of experience, money, or power. When you’ve collected enough power, you can activate one of the monster’s three possible superpowers.
That’s all you do in combat, and it’s dull. Loot collection and power activation are great game mechanics that will keep you from nodding off during a fight, and we liked that the developer put the focus on them. But iOS devices offer many simple player inputs such as tilts, shakes, and swipes. Any one of these could have been tied to the basic attacks to engage players and give them a sense of control, without distracting them from the core loot collection mechanic.
Don’t cry, building.
The game does offer some strategic choices, based on how you decide to build up your monster. Between fights, you can visit three locations to buy upgrades with the money you’ve earned. The dojo sells superpowers for your monster, the gym sells training to increase your monster’s stats, and the shop sells fashionable hats, which give your monster additional hit points.
The mix of powers, skills and hats determines your monster’s offensive and defensive strengths. My Little Monster is easy enough that we were able to get to mid-game by picking one stat or power and maxing it out, but eventually we had to pick abilities that complemented each other.
The abilities give you several different approaches to the game, and it can be fun to find combinations that work together. The fights are still repetitive, though, even when you’re playing with different strategies. High score chasers may enjoy optimizing their builds, but we found ourselves picking a simple combination that worked, then playing it over and over again until the end of the game. The strategy was effective, but not especially challenging or fun.
Where to next?
What is fun is the game’s lunatic creativity. The 31 enemies are a cheerfully bizarre selection that includes Lost Hikers, Stupid Monkeys, Lo-Res Mages, and a wrestler named White Thrasher who looks suspiciously like Hulk Hogan. The seven bosses are entertaining and silly, though their lack of special abilities or tactics is disappointing. There is one twist in the gameplay later on, but we won’t spoil it here.
The visuals are rendered in a retro 8-bit-style, and the enemies’ poses and expressions made us smile during every fight. So did their introductory trash talk quotes, and the occasional rejoinders from the little monster.
We also like how the monster grows and matures as it gains levels, and that the in-game money is in Japanese yen for that Toho movie monster feeling. The cutscenes are enjoyable, making it easy to root for the little monster as he wanders the world, smashing enemies and pondering the meaninglessness of his existence.
My Little Monster is adorable, and there are moments throughout the game that show it was crafted with care, love, and a lot of artistic talent. It’s just too bad that in a 90-minute game, you’ll spend 60 minutes watching dull and unchallenging battles so you can get to the next good bit.